Roxanne Gay’s “A Tale of Three Coming Out Stories” examines the relationship between privacy, social visibility, and the responsibility to promote progress that often falls upon those in the public eye. Essentially, Gay argues first that society places an unnecessary pressure on celebrities and public figures to disclose aspects of their personal lives, especially then it comes to sexual orientation. Gay argues that the reasons we give for overstepping these bounds aren’t sufficient—to “reveal hypocrisy” for “the greater good” is not a justifiable reason for “forcibly out[ing]” someone. She argues that our society, so comfortable with freely sharing personal information, feels entitled to everyone else’s information as well.
I found Gay’s argument linking class to privacy interesting, though I’m not quite sure if I agree. Keizer claims that people in a higher social strata have more access to privacy, using the example that a pregnant woman to show how her “condition” becomes more visible. I don’t know why a pregnant woman’s visibility would change if she were more privileged, so I found that argument a little confusing.
Keizer then examines celebrities coming out, such as Anderson Cooper. Her observation of a “right” kind of gay was very powerful, I think—recently, a celebrity coming out is a fashionable public statement where the celebrity asserts him or herself and protests against social stigma. But Gay is right in that Cooper is in a less risky position to assert his sexual orientation, considering that he is, as Gay describes, “not too flamboyant, not too gay,” and that it’s often a lot more difficult for people to come out that Cooper makes it seem.
I really appreciated that when Gay demanded social change from heterosexuals, she gave specific examples of stopping using “gay” as a slur, stopping supporting artists like Tyler, the Creator, and voting for marriage equality. I’ve found it really frustrating when authors simply spend their time explaining a problem and then just saying, “this is wrong,” without ever really citing specific examples of how a reader might be able to help the issue, so I found Gay’s outcry more powerful because of her specificity.